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Why Recycle Electronics?

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Electronic recycling has gotten a pretty poor reputation.  Many electronic items can be recycled at no charge, however some items have a fee associated with their disposal, mostly those old tube-style televisions and computers.  These fees have caused more than a few electronics to be dumped in landfills and other unfavorable locations, left to leak their toxic components into the environment.  This is not a good situation for many reasons, and topping the list is the fact that those old style televisions and computer monitors contain a large glass Cathode Ray Tube, composed of lead and other toxic components.  Lead is a neurotoxin, meaning it impacts our nervous system as well as our brain development and functioning.  Newer electronics have their fair share of known toxic chemicals: laptops contain mercury and cadmium and cell phones contain lead and other heavy metals. When electronics like these are dumped in a landfill or abandoned in other locations, those toxic components break down, eventually ending up in our water.

To properly recycle electronics, they must be disassembled, categorized by material and, depending on the quality of the recycler, they can be broken and cleaned to get to the four basic commodities: glass, plastic, metals and hazardous parts/chemicals. There are two main methods of recycling electronics:

• Demanufacturing: manually dismantling product to market the recyclable materials in the product

• Shredding: large shredding equipment recovers the maximum value of recyclable materials

So why is there a cost associated with recycling some electronics?  Currently, about 10-15% of consumer electronic scrap has resale value.  This means that the majority of the electronic parts being recycled have little, if any, monetary value, which makes the cost of recycling these products higher.  The folks who disassemble the electronic appliances have to consider the cost versus the value of the breakdown for each item.  In addition, the process to ‘depollute’, or remove hazardous components during the recycling process, is very time-consuming and difficult.  This is also drives up the cost of electronic disposal.  It costs a lot of money to remove the lead from those old televisions!  Some of the components of electronics can be removed and re-processed into new  electronics.  What isn’t reusable, or doesn’t have resale value, will be de-toxified and disposed of in a landfill.

It is critical that you take you electronics to an electronic disposal location so they can be broken down by safe and proper methods by professionals.  Many places where you buy electronics, such as Best Buy, have the capabilities to take back your unwanted electronics.  You can also take unwanted items to Recycling Jackson, located at 1401 N. Brown St.  They are open the first Saturday of every month from 9-1.  Visit for a list of accepted items and any associated fees.  Also, please visit the Jackson County Conservation District’s brand new recycling website, for more information.  As always, contact us with questions and comments.

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